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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OS MATHEMATICS
hope that the publication [of it] -will contribute to a favourable
reception of my larger work,'
The reception of Riemann's probationary lecture (10 June
1854) was as cordial as even he could have wished in the scared
secrecy of his modest heart. The lecture had made him sweat
blood to prepare because he had determined to make it intelli-
gible even to those members of the faculty who had but little
knowledge of mathematics. In addition to being one of the
great masterpieces of all mathematics, Riemann's essay Cber
die Hypothesen, wekhe der Geometric zu Grunde liegen (On the
hypotheses which lie at the foundations of geometry), is also a
classic of presentation. Gauss was enthusiastic. 'Against all
tradition he had selected the third of the three topics submitted
by the candidate, wishing to see how such a difficult subject
would be handled by so young a man. He was surprised beyond
all his expectations, and on returning from the faculty meeting
expressed to Wilhelm Weber his highest appreciation of the
ideas presented by Riemann, speaking with an enthusiasm
that, for Gauss, was rare.' "What little can be said here about
this masterpiece will be reserved for the conclusion of the
present chapter.
After a rest at home with his family in Quickborn, Riemann
returned hi September to Gottingen, where he delivered a
hastily prepared lecture (sitting up most of the night to get it
ready on short notice) to a convention of scientists. TTig topic
was the propagation of electricity in non-conductors. During
the year he continued his researches in the mathematical theory
of electricity and prepared a paper on Nobili's colour rings
because, as he wrote his sister Ida: *This subject is important,
for very exact measurements can be made in connexion with it,
and the laws according to which electricity moves can be
tested.'
In the same letter (9 October 1854) he expresses his un-
bounded joy at the success of his first academic lecture and his
great satisfaction at the unexpectedly large number of auditors.
Eight students had come to, hear him! He had anticipated at the
most two or three. Encouraged by this unhoped-for popularity,
Riemann tells his father, 'I have been able to hold my classes
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